This has happened to all of us: you get to the restaurant, and the host asks you to wait at the bar until your party is complete.
What happened last night at Double Crown took arrogance and audacity to new heights. When I arrived, the host said:
Your guest is here. She went to the ladies’ room. When she gets back, I’ll take you to your table. Feel free to wait at the bar.
This was in a practically empty dining room.
In a busy, casual restaurant, I respect the policy of not seating incomplete parties. Why should the host keep someone else waiting, while I sit at a half-empty table, waiting for guests who may never show up, or who could be considerably delayed?
But Double Crown wasn’t busy, and my date had arrived. Asking me to wait at the bar in that situation is beyond absurd.
Beyond that was a loud sound track that made pleasant conversation difficult; a hackneyed faux Asian décor phoned in by the folks of AvroKO, who’ve done better work elsewhere; and a Vongerichten lite fusion menu that seems to have lost its focus since Frank Bruni awarded two grade-inflated stars in 2008.
The website claims that, “Double Crown explores the aesthetic and culinary dualities arising from the British Empire’s forays into Southeast Asia.” The British influences have disappeared, assuming they existed in the first place. What we have now is pan-Asian miscellany, filtered through an East Village twenty-something comfort food lens.
At least it is not terribly expensive. Most appetizers are $13 or less, most entrées $27 or less. Cocktails were $12, including a great chipotle sour made with three kinds of whisky. That passes for a bargain in Manhattan these days. Bread service (below left) was pretty good too, with two kinds of rolls and soft butter.
A whole braised short rib for two, served on the bone ($44; above right), and coated with an unspecified spice mix, was tender and flavorful, but short rib is hard to mess up if you braise it long enough. I realize that braised meats are prepared long in advance, but this came out literally five minutes after we ordered it—before the wine was poured, in fact. It came with a decent Asian mushroom salad.
The wine list, printed on the back of the menu, is a grab bag with no particular focus. There’s an ample selection of inexpensive bottles, or you can go into the triple digits for bottles that I couldn’t imagine drinking with this food. A 2007 Weninger Zweigelt at $36 was one of the more enjoyable inexpensive bottles I’ve seen in quite some time.
The server kept the wine on a counter away from the table, and I wondered if she’d be attentive enough to keep our glasses charged. Surprisingly, she was. But after the wine was finished, and we wanted our bill, she was nowhere to be seen.
When Double Crown opened, the Bowery was just beginning to sow its oats as a dining destination. Nowadays, if you’re in the area, Pulino’s, DBGB, or Peels are all better bets. And if you have a hankering for Chef Brad Farmerie’s best work, Michelin-starred Public and The Monday Room aren’t far away.
Those are all better options than Double Crown.
Double Crown (316 Bowery at Bleecker Street, NoLIta/East VIllage)
Ambiance: Loud and Hackneyed
Overall: No Stars